Foodservice Equipment: Sweet, Hot and Fast

NRA Show rollouts reflect technological evolution, consumer preferences

Faster cooking technologies, a steady flow of dispensed treats and labor efficiency were among the trends that percolated at the 2014 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held May 17-20 at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Convenience Store Products was there to capture some of the biggest food, beverage and equipment breakthroughs of the year—all with applications to the c-store industry.

Blendtec debuted the latest version of its self-service, self-cleaning, ice-making smoothie machine at the NRA Show. The convenience-store industry is one of the target segments for the unit.

Among Hatco’s new product spotlights was a multicontact grill with removable, dishwasher-safe platens that make it easy to clean and swap out textures based on menu needs.

Wilbur Curtis Co.’s Wireless Freshness Monitoring System (FMS) tracks the freshness of food and beverages and uses proprietary communication technology to report to a single interface, increasing quality and reducing waste, safety risks and equipment downtime.

Ovention won its second consecutive Kitchen Innovations award this year for the Shuttle, a conveyor variation on its revolutionary Matchbox. The patented Precision Impingement allows operators to control time and blower speeds for each item.

Manitowoc put the spotlight on advancements to its Convotherm 4 combi oven, including an advanced close system for more efficient cooking. The company won a Kitchen Innovations award this year for a new iteration of its Blend-In-Cup machine that allows for manual ice fill vs. onboard ice making found in its previous model.

Another new entry to the blended treats category, the Magna Blend from The Taylor Co. can make shakes, smoothies and even cocktails in 9 seconds. It features a rinsing platform within the footprint, and recipes can be updated via flash drive.

Drawing a crowd on the floor was TurboChef’s colorful new Fire oven, which cooks raw-dough, Neapolitan-style pizza in as little as 90 seconds. This countertop convection oven can reach up to 800 degrees and comes in a variety of bold colors.

Keurig launched its new Bolt system, which makes 64 ounces of coffee in 2 minutes using premeasured large pods. The Bolt was the recipient of an NRA Food and Beverage Innovations award at this year’s show.

Another Kitchen Innovations winner, the new conveyor toaster from Star Manufacturing combines radiant heat with impingement by recirculating heated, high-speed air over bread and other products for faster, efficient and more even toasting.

Food safety was also a priority for manufacturers. Scalable to treat almost any commercial ice machine, BioZone Scientific International’s IceZone X is a clean-in-place sanitation system that uses ultraviolet light oxidation to prevent contamination and eliminate over 99% of surface micro-contamination.

Next year’s NRA Show will be held May 16-19 at McCormick Place in Chicago. Considering NAFEM is also occurring in 2015, we can expect another full roster of new equipment rollouts in the year to come.